2008 Fighter Of The Year: Thiago Alves - In 2008, no one in MMA has accomplished as much as Thiago Alves. For the year he was 3-0, with all 3 wins coming against top notch competition. First he begun the year with a 2nd round TKO over Karo Parisyan(UFC Fight Night 13). He then followed that up with another TKO victory at UFC 85 in the main event against former UFC champion, and MMA legend Matt Hughes(Should be noted though that this fight was fought at a catchweight). And to finish off the year, he scored an absolutely dominating decision victory over top contender Josh Koscheck(UFC 90). Within 1 year Alves went from relative unknown to an almost certain title shot against either BJ Penn, or George St. Pierre in 2009. Which on paper, should be an early candidate for Fight Of The Year for 2009). Congratulations to Thiago Alves for putting together an enormously impressive 2008!
2008 Fight Of The Year: Paul Kelly vs Paul Taylor(UFC 80) - I remember watching UFC 80 with some friends, and when this fight from the undercard came on as a filler, and we heard Mike Goldberg state "This is a fight we've all been waiting for", we all had a good laugh, as clearly we were all waiting to see an undercard fight between 2 guys we'd never heard of. For once though, this wasn't just Goldie blowing smoke. From the opening bell both fighters rushed in and begun wailing on each other, full tilt. We assumed there was no way these guys would be able to keep up that insane for very long. We were wrong. This fight was a non-stop slug fest from beginning to end, and while Kelly ended up winning a unanimous 30-27 decision, every round was close, and every round was packed with non-stop excitement. I got to give Goldberg props here, for once, he was right on the money.
2008 Breakout Star: Thiago Alves - The trendy pick for this award would certainly be Brock Lesner, and I must admit, he was the first fighter who came to my mind when I thought of this award. After some consideration though, I have to go with the man who also won my
2008 Fighter Of The Year award, Mr. Thiago Alves. The reasons for me taking Alves over Lesner are this: For one, what exactly is a "Breakout Star?" To me, a "Breakout Star" is a guy who is a relative unknown, who bursts onto the scene in a dominating way, as Thiago did. Lesner on the other hand, came into the UFC with much fanfare(Both positive and negative) and a ton of hype. Also, while Lesner holds a championship(Half of one, at least) and Thiago does not, Lesner also had a much quicker road to the championship then Alves has. Lesner was 1-1 in the UFC, losing his first bout to Frank Mir, and then mauling Heath Herring, to get his title shot. Alves on the other hand, has gone 9-2 in his UFC career, is on a 7 fight win streak in the UFC, and has gone 3-0 in 2008 to earn his title shot. For these reasons, Alves wins out over Lesner.
2008 Knockout Of The Year: Rashad Evans over Chuck Liddell(UFC 88) - A considerable underdog heading into his fight against the former champion, and UFC legend Chuck Liddell at UFC 88, Evans was proving the experts doubts about him to be very right through the 1st round and into the 2nd round. Liddell was very much in control of the fight and has landed a number of considerable shots, while Evans landed maybe a handful strikes totals. All that changed in 1 split second though. Liddell had backed Evans up against the fence and looked like he was going in for the kill. At that moment, Evans unleashed an overhand right from hell that landed square in Liddell's face, and knocked the Iceman cold with one of the most brutal KO's the UFC has ever seen.
2008 Submission Of The Year: Shinya Aoki over Katsuhiko Nagata(DREAM 4) - Simply put, whenever to are able to apply what's widely regarded as the most difficult submission to pull off in MMA(The gogoplata), you win this award by default pretty much. Aoki showed an inhuman flexability in pulling off from mount, a submission which has, to my knowledge only been successfully applied in professional MMA a total of 3 times. Hats go over to Aoki, as it doesn't get much sweeter than that.
2008 Upset Of The Year: Frank Mir over Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira(UFC 92) - Coming into this fight, virtually no one was giving Mir and chance, and for good reason. While he had held the UFC Heavyweight Title for a brief period before a motorcycle accident put him on the shelf for well over a year, he has been wholly unimpressive since his return, going 3-2 with 2 devestating losses to Marcio Cruz and Brandon Vera. His sole claim to fame since then was tapping out Brock Lesnr in his first UFC fight. A fight in which Lesner was mauling Mir for all but about 5 seconds, where Mir was able to grab a hold of a leg and force the newcomer to tap. Against Mir was the man widely considered to be the 2nd greatest Heavyweight of all-time. The only man to hold championship belts in both PRIDE and the UFC. A man who through 35 professional fights had only lost 4 times, all by decision, with all but his 2 losses to Fedor being avenged. In his pre-fight interviews, it seemed like even Mir did not think he could win. At UFC 92 though, Mir proved himself, and just about everyone else, wrong. Making Nogueira look like he had bricks in his feet, Mir unleashed combo after combo which dropped the Brazilian champion 3 times in the first round. In the 2nd round, after dropping Nogueira with yet another furious combo, Mir pounced on the downed champ and did what no man in history had ever done: He finished Nogueira, and put and end to the saying that Nogueira doesn't lose fights, he simply runs out of time.